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MN-FISH Meets with Minnesota DNR


Members of the MN-FISH board met via Zoom with key members of the DNR to voice concerns of membership and get a better understanding of the DNR’s position on three main subjects: walleye stocking, live bait trapping and tournament fishing.

The Minnesota DNR was represented by Deputy Commissioner Bob Meier, Fisheries Chief Brad Parsons, and Fisheries Managers Doug Schultz from Leech Lake and Eric Altenna from Little Falls. MN-FISH attendees included Tom Neustrom, Ron Schara, John Peterson, Garry Leaf and Frankie Dusenka.

Walleye Stocking

According to fisheries chief Brad Parson’s, DNR fisheries managers use a combination of science and common sense to manage state fisheries. The DNR is committed to continued stocking waters where a management plan is in place but relies primarily on natural reproduction to maintain consistent walleye numbers. He also reminded us that overstocking of walleyes does not mean better fishing. In fact, in many instances, it can lead to a negative walleye harvest.

MN-FISH requested and was granted an annual review of DNR stocking summaries to better understand stocking levels by region, in comparison to regional requests for fry and/or fingerlings.

With more than 100,000 additional fishing licenses sold in 2020, questions were raised on how MN-FISH could help the DNR promote sale of the Walleye Stamp – an optional $5 validation to your fishing license that supports private sector stocking to supplement current DNR stocking. The DNR supports private stocking that meet specific criteria established by the agency. However, walleye cannot be introduced into lakes that have not previously been managed for the species.

Live Bait Trapping/Transportation

MN-FISH voiced growing concerns from live bait trappers, bait dealers and state anglers over minnow shortages due to strict AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) trapping/transportation regulations, especially for fatheads, spot-tail and golden shiners. The DNR responded by telling us these AIS regulations cannot be deregulated as its spread threatens fish, wildlife, plants and the health of our ecosystem.

The DNR prohibits trapping spot-tail shiners in Upper Red, Lake Winnibigoshish and Mille Lacs when the water temperature reaches 55 degrees. That’s the temperature zebra mussels become active and the DNR does not want a spread of them through contacts with bait being trapped and sold publicly.

However, since no VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia) has been found in Minnesota waters to date (except for Lake Superior), some regulations could be lifted in the future to benefit trappers and anglers. Brad Parsons ended the live bait discussions by telling us that due to strict invasive species regulation, private sector, “commercially grown” live bait may become the best way to meet the growing demands for live bait in the future.

Tournament Fishing  

There was discussion for having all tournaments, regardless of size of size permitted with the DNR to create public awareness prior to events. Support for limiting the number of fishing tournaments on a given body of water per month or year, were also aired and discussed for future review.

With an increasing number of tournaments on Minnesota lakes, complaints are coming in from lake associations and recreational users trying to access boat ramps on weekends or holidays. One solution discussed is having the DNR work with event organizers to schedule more events on weekdays to reduce weekend pressure and preserve access space for other recreational users.

MN-FISH voiced support of walleye and bass tournaments going to Catch, Photo & Release (CPR) format to reduce fish stress and mortality during events, especially those held during the warm-water months of July and August, as well as spring bass tournaments when bass are transported several miles from their spawning beds to weigh-in sites.

The meeting with the DNR in February was informative, enlightening and highly productive. Our mission was to provide the DNR with valuable input and feedback from MN-FISH anglers and industry stakeholders to assist them in their critical decision-making process.

We encourage MN-FISH members to comment on these issues, either directly to MN-FISH or on our Facebook page.

By Tom Neustrom

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